Even COVID-19 can’t stop jazz musicians and fans from getting together.
The 30th annual Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest was sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic for its big birthday celebration in April 2020, so the entire lineup was programmed for April of this year.
When Berks Arts, the festival’s presenting organization, realized that even that might be too soon to hold this 10-day event that is all indoors, no one was daunted.
According to executive director Meggan Kerber, “with much planning, shifting and flexibility amongst our artists and vendors,” the decision was made to move fest to August 13-22.
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Those who bought tickets for the 2020 lineup were advised to hold onto them, and that offer still stands for most of the concerts. But because of the second rescheduling, a few of the artists were unable to perform here in August because of previous commitments.
Ticketholders for Damien Escobar, Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, the Peter Rogan Band, Felix Pastorius, Tab Benoit, and Incognito with Maysa, all of whom have scheduling conflicts, will receive refunds from Ticketmaster or from the Santander Arena Box Office — wherever the tickets were purchased.
In place of those artists, Berks Jazz Fest general manager John Ernesto has programmed some exciting concerts with an emphasis on blues:
- Up-and-coming 22-year-old blues singer/guitarist Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, whose 2019 debut album, Kingfish, was given Album of the Year and four other awards by the Blues Music Awards, will perform on Saturday, Aug. 14, along with award-winning blues saxophonist Vanessa Collier.
- Blues/folk/roots legend David Bromberg and his band will perform with special guest King Solomon Hicks, a 25-year-old blues guitarist/singer/composer on Sunday, Aug. 15.
- Austin-based powerhouse blues singer Marcia Ball (formerly of Freda and the Firedogs) will perform with blues/soul giant Tommy Castro and the James Supra/Sarah Ayers Band on Saturday, Aug. 21. Supra is an outstanding blues harmonica artist, and Ayers a classically trained vocalist who has switched to blues singing.
- “An Incredible Night of Music” is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 21, with Chris “Big Dog” Davis & Friends. Davis is a Grammy-nominated jazz pianist/composer/producer with a long career performing and touring with Brian McKnight, Gerald Albright and others. Joining Davis will be Kim Waters, Marcus Anderson, Maysa, Eric Darius, Nick Collione, Lin Roundtree, Brian Lenair and Alyson Williams — all performing their hits.
An additional major lineup update: Saxophonist and prolific recording artist David Sanborn will be featured as a special guest with bassist/composer Marcus Miller and his band on Saturday, Aug. 21.
Concerts previously scheduled to be held at the Inn at Reading will be held either outdoors at the tented Truck N Brew venue at Willow Glen Park in Sinking Spring, or indoors at a DoubleTree by Hilton Reading venue.
Otherwise, the Berks Jazz Fest’s 30th birthday will be celebrated as planned and as usual: In style, with plenty of choices for every taste.
On Aug. 7, a week before opening night, singer Carol Riddick and bassist Gerald Veasley, with pianist Aaron Graves and drummer Tim Hutson, will perform “I Got Life:” The Music of Nina Simone at the WCR Center for the Arts, as a pre-festival appetizer.
The headliner for opening night, Aug. 13, will be trumpeter Chris Botti, always a favorite with festival audiences. The following day will be packed with events, Keiko Matsui and Kirk Whalum, to the Reading Pops Orchestra celebrating “The Spirit of Django Reinhardt,” with accordionist extraordinaire Julien Labro and Hot Club of Reading musicians Chris Heslop, Josh Taylor and friends.
That evening the 30th Anniversary All-Star Celebration will showcase more favorite artists from past festivals.
More headliners throughout the 10 days include singer Janis Siegel (of the Manhattan Transfer); saxophonist Boney James; Dean Brown’s Summer of Love Evolution featuring trumpeter Randy Brecker and an all-star ensemble; The Brubeck Brothers celebrating Dave Brubeck’s centennial; The Royal Scam (with the RS Horns) celebrating the music of Steely Dan; Brian Bromberg’s Unapologetically Funky Big Bombastic Band; and for the finale, smooth jazz great Brian Culbertson.
There will be Gerald Veasley’s Midnight Jams at Club ECP in the DoubleTree both Fridays and Saturdays. Numerous other shows are set for Club ECP, including Veasley’s “Unscripted at Berks” each Saturday.
The annual Chuck Loeb Memorial All-Stars Jam is set for Thursday, Aug. 19, in the DoubleTree grand ballroom.
For a complete schedule, artist bios, and detailed information on ticket refunds and ticket purchases, visit www.berksjazzfest.com
“Berks Arts and Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest is looking forward to celebrating 30 years of the Fest with our community and patrons,” Kerber said. “Being able to provide an opportunity to gather safely to enjoy live music helps our community to heal and provide hope, as we continue to manage the impact of the pandemic. Berks Arts is proud to be able to inspire, engage and unite our community through the arts.”